locher's reptiles south georgia today
Marshall and Willy Bite

Locher’s Reptiles is a unique little “community” in its own right. Marshall Locher has been collecting reptiles and other animals for years, so it was only natural for him to turn his passion into a full-time career. With the help of his friends Samson Bennett, Jerry Smith, and Jason Moore, and of course Willy and Greta, he is not only changing the perceptions people have about snakes and alligators but also educating them as well. He pursued his passion to the point that he gave up teaching at Sallas Mahone Elementary School to devote all of his time to the creatures he loves so much.

Dispelling the Myths
When people think about snakes, there are a lot of misconceptions and old wives’ tales that are generated by misinformation that is either found on the internet or told by people who are raised with certain beliefs. An excellent example of this is the belief that snakes that have round eyes aren’t poisonous. That isn’t necessarily true.

Marshall said, “Poisonous snakes can also have “round” eyes under certain conditions.”

Some people believe that when a snake stretches out alongside someone, they measure them to see if they can eat them. This is also false.

Samson Bennett said, “They do it for warmth not to try and eat someone.”

The fact is snakes, and other reptiles are misunderstood because people know so little about them and often fear them because of it.

Another belief is that snakes are out to get you. That’s wrong too.

“They don’t want you to see them or touch them. They want to be left alone,” according to Samson. When it comes to snake bites, Marshall adds, “Bites happen when people see the snake and are walking up to it to shoot it or if they have a hoe or shovel and are trying to kill it.” Samson adds, “More people die from domesticated dog attacks each than from snake bites.”

Snake bites are never good considering the venom of copperhead contains a modified digestive enzyme that breaks down muscle tissue. This is referred to as “necrosis” and can cause a man to lose fingers, and maybe more if bitten on the hand.

locher's reptiles
Jerry Smith and a diamondback rattlesnake

It’s Not All Bad
One of the main reasons, aside from education, that Marshall and his friends focus so heavily on poisonous snakes is because of the venom. The ultimate goal is to be able to “milk” the snakes and collect as much of the venom as possible so that it can be turned into “anti-venom.” Anti-venom is used to counteract the effects of a snake bite once it has occurred. That isn’t the only thing that venom is used for.

Samson explains, “The venom from the cottonmouth and copperhead is 85% effective for breast cancer treatments. It destroys the tumor but doesn’t damage the fatty tissue surrounding it.”

He also states that lower potencies of the venom being used in cosmetic products like lip plumpers and artificial Botox.

Education Is Everything
“Education is the main thing. We had the educational program at Sallas Mahone Elementary School because of Marshall being there,” said Jerry Smith.

The team has built an entire educational program around the critters they call family. Marshall will crate up the creatures and take them to schools, birthday parties, and other events in an attempt to show kids and adults alike that if you respect them and what they are capable of, they will respect you and be more than happy to leave you be. One of Marshall’s favorite things to do is to take out his rather large African Bullfrog, Nevine, and ask the little princesses in the audience if they want to kiss him so he will turn back into a prince. Most of the time, their answer is “NO!” which is probably wise since he has teeth and can eat an entire mouse in one bite.

locher's reptiles
Greta Sharing the Love

Unlikely Pets and Rescues
In addition to Nevine, Marshall has close to 40 snakes and reptiles in his home including Greta, a 12-foot, four year old, yellow reticulated python and Willy Bite, a baby alligator with quite the personality. The first thing you notice about Greta is that she wants attention.

Marshall said, “She’s almost puppy-like. If you get close enough, she will try and reach you so you can pet her or she can wrap around you.”

And then you have Willy Bite. A little less than two feet in length, he will close his eyes and act like he’s smiling if you rub him gently under the chin. Many of the creatures that the guys find as unlikely “rescues” often become pets. Socialization is essential and most of them, despite what many people think, actually are quite friendly and docile once they have been around people for a while. Socializing with the animals and working with them regularly allows Marshall and his team to take them to birthday parties and educational events so that others can get to know them and enjoy the experience.

It’s Cheaper to Keep Him
What does Marshall’s wife think about sharing their home with all of his “little friends.”

Marshall smiles big and said, “It’s cheaper to keep me. It’s past a hobby. It’s a labor of love.”

With the support of his wife and help from his friends, he operates Locher’s Reptiles out of his home. Although they don’t rehab animals, they do retrieve them from anywhere they aren’t supposed to be. In the state of Georgia, it’s illegal to kill snakes, so people have to call and have them removed. They will go just about anywhere they are needed if it means rescuing a snake, alligator, or other animal and moving it to a safe location. Marshall has all of the necessary permits to keep the critters for educational purposes as well as a Nuisance Wildlife Control Permit from the Georgia DNR that allows him to retrieve or rescue the animals as needed.

locher's reptiles
Samson Bennet tubing a rattlesnake

If you are looking for a unique idea for a child’s birthday party or would like to have an educational program, you can call Marshall at 229-444-8616. The men also can come and remove animals that have been found and need to move to a safer location. You can also message them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Lochersreptiles/

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